Pictured: Alex Anees, a self-portrait.

“You know, the world is your oyster,” said Alex Anees, Research Operations Facilitator (ROF) at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute (Blusson QMI). “And that’s true, but it can also be overwhelming.”

Anees joined us the same week that Claudia Kee and Jie Ie Baik did in February 2017, though he notes that it was a much smaller place then. He arrived from the United States after graduate school; he attended Lewis University in Illinois, focusing on the humanities, areas he felt were lacking in his education at a science-focused high school. He earned an MBA in 2016 while working as an administrator with the university.

“I moved here a month after I graduated,” he said. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work at UBC.”

With a few family connections and a single faculty acquaintance, he arrived in Vancouver and started with Staff Finders (since re-named Hiring Solutions), unsure of his end-goal but happy to be in a place he found naturally beautiful and intellectually stimulating. Since joining Blusson QMI, he has become an essential part of the organization; in his role as a ROF, he supports several faculty members and operations needs, including working with Pinder Dosanjh on some projects, reports, and billing and invoicing for the cleanroom and the helium recovery plant.

“The ROF role actually has a very interesting feature, in that you don’t know what your job is going to be like tomorrow,” said Anees. Of the three ROFs – Kee, and Tracy Xu – “we all do something different every day.”

In order to learn more about Blusson QMI, he began drawing. An artist at heart, Anees felt a need to connect with SBQMI in a creative way. The complexity of the research taking place at the institute is only part of the story; for people to connect with SBQMI, Anees thought, it was important to get to the core of what SBQMI is about. His drawings, originally meant to support event-related communications, have become a feature of the institute.

“I wanted to understand Blusson QMI, even when aspects of it feel abstract; drawing for the institute came from a need to interpret it in meaningful ways, to define its personality,” he said. “I wanted people to feel connected with Blusson QMI.”

Anees wants people to feel spoken to, and to feel like the things Blusson QMI is doing – whether that’s events, workshops, or even something as simple as Doughnut Day – are for them.

In his spare time, Anees lets his curiosity drive his interests. He plays music, owning a collection of instruments; he paints, he draws, and he writes. He dabbles in languages, and is currently learning about astronomy and attempting astrophotography.

“I don’t want this to sound like a cliché, but the thing that I am most interested in is learning,” he said. “As an introvert, I spend a lot of time just listening and thinking. Sometimes, I connect with an idea, and then I like to spend my time figuring out how to make it happen; art is often the medium, but it’s not about a particular tool; it’s learning how to make something a reality, in the form that best suits the idea.”

It’s this keen ear and desire to make big things happen that has helped Alex find his place at Blusson QMI.

“When I started in 2017, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I was just happy to be working at UBC. Working as a ROF at Blusson QMI has been a completely surprising opportunity,” he said.